President Obama’s national security nominations

From The Pirate’s Cove:

Surprise! Iran Thrilled By Chuck Hagel Nomination

By William Teach January 8, 2013 – 8:19 am

A Secretary of Defense who’s soft on Iran and an Israel hater would match his boss

(CBS News) Iran’s Foreign Ministry says it is hopeful the appointment of former Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel to lead the Pentagon would improve relations between Tehran and the U.S.

Asked about Hagel’s nomination, ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday that Tehran was hopeful that there would be “practical changes” to U.S. foreign policy, and that nations would change their attitude towards the U.S. if it respected their rights.

Hagel’s nomination is causing jitters in Israel, on the other hand, where some view the former Nebraska senator as unsympathetic or even hostile.

This is typical of the political Left both in the United States and around the world, who would like to see Israel reduced back to the 1967 borders, if not totally eliminated, and often seem to see Iran as little darlings who are completely misunderstood. Iran with nukes? Bah. Stop looking under you bed for the boogeyman.

Hagel further refused to sign a letter asking the EU to designate Hezbollah a terrorist nation, and wanted to treat Hamas, a known and violent Islamist terrorist group, “pragmatically”.

More at the link. THE WALL STREET JOURNAL noted that President Obama’s nominations of former Senator Hagel and White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to become Director of the Central Intelligence Agency would be controversial:

Obama Security Picks Court Controversy

Hagel for Defense, Brennan for CIA Expected to Face Grilling

President Obama nominated Chuck Hagel, left, to lead the Pentagon and John Brennan, right, to lead the CIA. (Brendan Smialowski/ Agence France-Presse/ Getty Images)

By Julian E Barnes And Siobhan Gorman

WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama, accepting the certainty of at least one bitter confirmation battle with Senate Republicans, rounded out his national security team Monday by picking nominees who likely see eye-to-eye with him on ending the Afghan war and using drones and special-operations forces to fight terrorism.

Mr. Obama nominated former Sen. Chuck Hagel to be his next defense secretary and White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

“My No. 1 criteria in making these decisions was simple—who is going to do the best job in securing America,” Mr. Obama said.

Both picks are controversial, especially that of Mr. Hagel, a Nebraska Republican seen as a political maverick. Even though opponents may find it difficult to amass sufficient numbers of Republican and Democratic votes to block Mr. Hagel’s confirmation, senators promised rigorous questioning.

More at the link.

I wrote, last month, that while I have rather little respect for John François Kerry, I do not oppose his nomination to become Secretary of State, even though I was very much opposed to the trial balloon floated in which Mr Kerry would have been nominated to become Secretary of Defense. I would have seen Mr Kerry’s nomination to be Secretary of Defense as very much an insult to our servicemen.

I did not oppose Mr Kerry’s nomination to become Secretary of State on policy grounds, saying “It really doesn’t matter who has the job, because the Secretary is not going to be able to replace the President’s rotten foreign policy.”

Combat Infantryman Badge

Well, the same is true concerning the Secretary of Defense and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Former Senator Hagel served as an enlisted man in the Vietnam war, rising to the rank of Sergeant, and winning the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, two Purple Hearts, Army Commendation Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge. Questions have been raised concerning Senator Hagel’s support for Israel, and they are legitimate questions, but the Secretary of Defense does not make policy concerning Israel; the President does.

Mr Brennan, a long-term CIA veteran, has opinions which indicate that he would like to see the CIA get more into the intelligence-gathering mission and move somewhat away from paramilitary operations, and has helped impose tighter controls over “targeted killing” programs, even though drone attacks on our enemies have increased while he has been working in the White House; as Director, he will not be making policy, but implementing the President’s policy choices.

From The Washington Post:

Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said Obama’s selection of Kerry, Hagel and Brennan reflects a change in foreign policy priorities for the second term.

Rhodes said all three nominees share Obama’s basic view of the world and the United States’ place in it, a view that favors multilateral alliances and a reliance on intelligence and lethal technology, holding war as a last resort. “These are three men well suited to that task,” he said.

Brennan has led a White House effort to develop a “playbook” of counterterrorism policies, aiming to set up institutions that can sustain the fight against al-Qaeda for another decade or more. But Obama is also seeking to turn toward other objectives, including new initiatives in Asia and expanded nuclear-nonproliferation work.

Hagel would add a well-known war skeptic to the administration’s national security team at a time when a potential military confrontation with Iran over its uranium-enrichment efforts looms as one of the gravest security challenges of Obama’s second term.

The second of those four paragraphs is the money quote: all three nominees share President Obama’s outlook and goals. Very simply, if one or more of these nominations fails, it doesn’t really matter, because it is President Obama who sets policy, and he’ll just nominate someone else who also shares his goals and vision. If Chuck Hagel isn’t a particular supporter of Israel, it doesn’t really matter; President Obama could have nominated former Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT),1 a very staunch supporter of Israel, and it still wouldn’t make any difference in President Obama’s foreign policy toward Israel.

Your Editor is very unimpressed with President Obama’s foreign policy and his view of the world and the United State’s role in it, but our chance to change that came last election day, and we failed to get that done; Barack Hussein Obama will be setting our foreign policy for the next four long and miserable years, period, and if sensible conservatives might be able to frustrate a couple of his policies on the margins, they have no power to change his outlook or goals. If we can somehow defeat these nominations, the President will simply appoint other people who will do his bidding in foreign policy.2

The three nominees in question are all qualified men, as far as the qualifications for their positions, all political appointments, go, and spending time and effort on opposing them takes time and effort away from the real battle that conservatives must wage: cutting government spending. That is going to be the real battle, and it is the battle which has to be won; everything else pales in comparison.
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  1. Some people will think that I have made an error by listing Mr Lieberman as a Democrat rather than an independent. Mr Lieberman won his last election, in 2006, as an independent after he had lost the 2006 Democratic primary to an Daily Kos’ type anti-war fanatic, but he was first elected as a Democrat, and as an independent continued to caucus with the Democrats.
  2. This statement assumes nothing actively disqualifying in the nominees’ backgrounds.